Saturday, May 15, 2010

Free, Really Free My Friend

As I said last week, I spent the National Day of Prayer offline. I had my bible study in the morning, where we prayed as a group for many people and things, such as government leaders, school teachers, and our families. I had a lengthy prayer list written down for the afternoon, after asking friends & family on Facebook to post their prayer requests for me. Then, in the evening, we had a 'concert of prayer' at church, which was really wonderful. We praised together, and prayed in small groups.
I felt excited and blessed to be able to spend my day this way. When I first decided to commit the entire day to prayer, I was intimidated. I wasn't sure how I could do it, if I would get bored and my mind would wander. I was surprised when this didn't happen. I kept thinking of more and more people to pray for, and my list grew as the day went on. And then at the concert, something truly amazing happened. God blessed me with something unexpected.
The past few months I have been struggling with the wreckage of my past. Most of the time I live my life in peace, having long ago dealt with the sins I committed in my past, particularly ones due mostly to my alcoholism. God has forgiven me, and I have changed my ways. I have made amends when and where I could, and most people have been very gracious to me in return. But at the beginning of March, when I attended the women's retreat with my church, I found myself suddenly very burdened and feeling very broken.
I've hinted at it here on the blog before, but never talked about it in detail. I've given my testimony many times at the pregnancy loss service at our old church, and in my bible study at our new church. But I have been more cautious about it here, for the simple reason that at some point someone from the Man's family may read this, and we have never told them. But God has done something amazing for me, and I need to testify to this.
When I was 20 and the Man was 22, I had an abortion. It was heartbreaking and horrible, and completely destroyed me in many ways. I knew it was wrong, and I didn't want to do it, but I felt trapped. I didn't understand that my alcoholism was driving this decision, but in hindsight, it clearly was. I was going to turn 21 that summer, and I could not only not fathom not being able to drink during a pregnancy, but for my 21st birthday? It was impossible. The Man and I both hid our emotions from each other, neither of us wanting me to do it, but saying nothing. I ached inside, wishing I could hide from the situation. I don't know that I can fully describe that feeling of desperation. I've heard someone describe the choice of abortion as akin to that of gnawing your foot off to escape a bear trap. It is very much like that.
I went to a city clinic with a friend, and went under sedation as the doctor aborted my 9 week old twin babies. I thought I would feel relieved when I woke up. I didn't. I felt empty. broken. ashamed. I cried a lot over the next few days, not comprehending what I had done or why I had done it. I hated myself.
Unable to cope, but unwilling to cross the line of drinking at work, I unconsciously turned to food. By the end of the year I had gained over 70 pounds. I worked in a day care and the pain of working with other people's children every day was too much for me. I eventually quit, but drifted for quite some time before I found work again. The Man and I had somehow stayed together, and got engaged that Christmas. We were married eighteen months later, and will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary at the end of this month.
God has been gracious to me, time and again, in healing my heart. I gave my heart back to Jesus after the birth of our daughter, and have been doing my best to live for Christ ever since. It wasn't until that retreat weekend that I felt myself breaking down. It was the 15th anniversary of that horrible day, and my mind had been festering; brewing up a well of guilt and angst.
I keep journals for each of my children, including the twins. I have never let anyone else read them, not even the Man. But as we say in AA, we're only as sick as our secrets, and I want to share what I've written to them. Here are the last few entries in theirs:

March, 2010 (right before I went on the retreat)
Fifteen years is a really long time. The pain is less now, most of the time. God has been so gracious to me, allowing me to heal in many ways. I pray that this is true for your father as well. We didn't talk about you at all today. Maybe he forgot what day it is. I hope that he did. I feel guilty writing that. But, I know that it is better to forget you, and to not dwell forever on what could have been. To be at peace with what we did to you, with what we lost... we need to be able to let the memories and pain fade away. The passage of time has a way of softening the edges of grief.
If I see pictures of aborted babies, I look away now. I used to torture myself, looking at photo after photo, reminding myself of this horrible gruesome thing that I had done. I don't do that anymore. I can't. I need to forgive myself and let you go.
I'm not that scared 20 year old girl anymore. I'm not that irresponsible and selfish drunk anymore. I'm not that murderer anymore.
My sweet boys, I do miss you desperately. I can smile sometimes when I think of you now, because I know our reunion someday will be amazing. I know you are at peace, and I know that I must choose to be at peace too. I love you.

March 22, 2010
I went on the women's retreat a few weeks ago. It was a wonderful and emotional weekend. I was blessed to help guide a young woman on her journey to accept Jesus as her Savior. God's presence was just so powerful over those two days.
On Saturday evening we did a clay pot activity, which was designed to show you how willing you are to be broken by God in order to accomplish His purposes. It was very emotional for us all, and for me, just having come out of an 18 month depression, it was especially poignant. After that we took communion. It was by intinction so we could get in line as we wanted. When I was waiting in line I began to cry, thinking of you. As the line slowly moved forward, I began to come undone, and just sobbed. I stepped out of line, needing to calm myself and ask God to be with me.
I wanted to get back in line, but how could I take His communion? My unworthiness, my sinfulness just smothered me. I could hear MURDERER ring in my ears over and over. My heart felt shattered.
I finally calmed enough to get back in line, but when my turn came I stood there, unable to take the bread. The woman serving the bread was compassionate to me, putting her arm around me. The shame of my sin was too much. I didn't deserve to take His communion. Her comfort finally moved me, and I took the bread. I moved and stood before the woman holding the cup, a friend, and I just stood there and cried. She prayed and asked God to show me that I'm forgiven of my sins. I cried on her shoulder, my broken heart once again unwilling to accept the forgiveness that He has offered me all along. I could barely swallow the elements.
After, I went behind a pillar to gather myself. As I then made my way to my seat, a friend stopped me and hugged me. She knew about you, and I told her that it was the 15 year anniversary. She held me and prayed, thanking God for the 15 years that He has been doing a work in me. I can't say that I felt better afterwards. I am able to calm myself by putting you in a box, and convincing myself that I somehow have peace about you. But I'm only fooling myself after all.

May 6, 2010, National Day of Prayer
You have been on my mind daily since the retreat. I have told myself repeatedly that I have to let you go. How can I be of service to the Kingdom if I am tied down with this never-ending grief? I'm no fool, I know the devil taunts me about you, reminds me always of what I did to you. But I felt I deserved to suffer, no matter how sorry I was. I felt that I had to hold on to my shame & grief, because it's all I have left of you. And outside of that, I felt like I had no control over these emotions anyway. I can't help missing you. I can't help being heartbroken that you are not in my life. I can't pretend that I don't feel guilt for the choice I made. I can't help missing you desperately. I can't stop feeling guilty.
I can't. He can.
He can, and through Him, I can.
I can choose.... This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. ~ Deut. 30:19
I didn't choose life 15 years ago. But I choose it now. Tonight at church, Pastor J. said that with the incredible price that Jesus paid for my freedom, it would be an insult to choose to live as a slave. I cannot be a slave to my past sin anymore. I have been forgiven, and I must choose to embrace that and LIVE that forgiveness.
Years ago, when my brothers & sisters in Christ laid hands on me, and His Spirit quickened within me, I felt the overwhelming power of evil and good at war within me. I felt that battle so keenly, as Jesus FOUGHT for me, and WON. I lay on the floor as limp as a dishrag, crying my eyes out, feeling every bit of my grief. I know that He healed me that day. It was my choice to go back against His will. I will disobey Him no longer.

We sang this song tonight...

One name under heaven
whereby we must be saved

Searched for a long time
Searched both night and day
then somebody showed us Jesus is the way. He's that...

One name under heaven
whereby we must be saved

Forgiven of my sin, baptized in the water
Filled with the Holy Ghost and
Washed in the blood of the Lamb. By that...

One name under heaven
whereby we must be saved

God's gonna move this place
God's gonna move this place
God's gonna turn this place upside down. By that...

One name under heaven
whereby we must be saved

Free, really free my friend
Free by the blood of the Lamb
Free by the blood of the Lamb. By that...

One name under heaven
Whereby we must be saved
(You can find this song here:

I know this is true, and I know that I must choose daily to live in that truth, that He has set me free. As we sang, 'free, really free my friend', I was awestruck by His love and grace, that He would reach out to me yet again, and show me that I'm forgiven. I no longer want to be a slave. I am free from my past sins. I thought it was about emotions & feelings, but I've realized it's more about obedience and faith. Emotions & feelings are unreliable. If I choose to obey, and to accept His forgiveness, then I will be free indeed. I trust Him with my heart. All praise be to Him.

He whom the Son sets free is free indeed! ~ John 8:36

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BeLoVed AiMeE said...

He is so big and so good. It's incomprehensible. Praise God for His love and forgiveness. Our acceptance of that love and forgiveness is just as important as His giving. He can give and give and if we don't take it, what good does it do us. Thank you for sharing your heart :)

KateO said...

Shay, I wish I could hug you even though we're not hugging type friends. I love that God is healing you/has healed you. I'm so sorry you've been thru this and have carried this weight around.
Thank you for your openess and honesty. LIke Pastor T said in church a couple weeks ago, he'll sign thru the cracks of our brokeness so His glory will be seen thru you.
Love you girl.

BucksCountyFolkArt said...

Lots of salt, even more chocolate, a bit of wine, and now reading a sad blog....the perfect storm for PMS.

Sarah Ann said...

Wow... what a beautiful story of God's grace. I am amazed at his work inside of you. Thank God that he moves us beyond ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I was moved to tears. What a story of grace and freedom! You're journal entries are such a testimony to how God is actively working in your life. Praise Him!!